Microsoft has released a "consumer preview" of Windows 8. It's available for free, and can be installed on just about any machine that can run Windows 7. You can install this test version of Windows 8 in a partition, and choose to boot Windows 7 or 8. Details here: http://windowsteamblog.com/windows/b...r-preview.aspx
Windows 8 gives you access to the Windows store. During the consumer preview, you can download programs from the Windows store without charge. Windows 8 will run older applications such as Microsoft Office, so you can use Windows 8 as part of your current workflow.
Microsoft wants to create a common user experience that can extend from smart phones through tablet computers and touch-enabled laptops and on to desktop computers. The Metro interface, used in Windows 8 and in the new Windows phones, is the first step in that direction. That makes Windows 8 a big deal.
I haven't used a Windows machine in years. Now where did I put that old laptop?
Here are some initial reports about the Windows 8 experience